There are many problems in the Texas death penalty system, but here is one that even we had not heard of before. A judge presiding over a death penalty trial who was making the beast with two backs with the prosecutor. The trial resulted in a death sentence and next week the man is set for execution. The Austin-American Statesman is reporting that:
The capital murder conviction of Charles Dean Hood, who is set to be executed Tuesday, should be overturned because the judge at his 1990 trial was secretly dating the district attorney, an appeal filed Thursday alleged.
Judge Verla Sue Holland, now retired, could not have provided Hood with a fair and impartial trial while involved in a long-term intimate relationship with then-Collin County District Attorney Tom O’Connell, the appeal said. O’Connell played an active role in prosecuting Hood for the double murder that put him on death row.
“The wall of silence that has long protected Judge Holland must now come down,” the appeal said. “An intimate relationship … not only implies a special willingness of the judge to accept the prosecutor’s representations and arguments, but also suggests extensive personal contacts beyond the confines of the courtroom.”
Neither Holland nor O’Connell were married at the time, but they worked to keep the relationship secret, the appeal said.
Last year, we had the shocking case of Judge Sharon Killer saying, “We close at 5” and shuffling off to dinner while a man was executed without having access to her court. Now this. Texas is disgraced again.
Hood’s latest appeal did not attack the facts of the case but focused on the right to a fair trial before an impartial judge.
According to the Texas Constitution, judges cannot sit on cases where they have a personal interest or “where either of the parties may be connected with the judge.”
In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a judge must not only be unbiased, “but also must avoid even the appearance of bias.”
The appearance of irresponsible or improper conduct by judges diminishes public confidence in judicial integrity and breeds skepticism and mistrust, Hood’s appeal argued.
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